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Jeep Wrangler 392 Concept quick drive review: A Hemi V8 makes the Rubicon cooler

The big question remains: Will Jeep put it into production?

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 Concept
It's only a concept... for now.
Steven Ewing/Roadshow

I only got to drive the Jeep Wrangler 392 concept for about 15 minutes, but that's all it took to seal the deal. This Hemi V8-powered Wrangler Rubicon is a riot and Jeep absolutely needs to bring it to production. For a company that's hellbent on Hellcatting all the things, seriously, why the hell not?

The concept isn't complicated, but it's extremely well executed; this is much more than just a 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with a 6.4-liter V8 shoehorned into its engine bay. The 392 Concept has a reinforced frame and stronger engine mounts, upgraded driveline and suspension hardware, purposeful off-road modifications and a few conceptual touches that may or may not be available as accessories someday.

The Hemi is the same one you'll find in other 392-badged Fiat-Chrysler products (it's a 392-cubic-inch V8, hence the name). In the Wrangler, it's tuned to produce 450 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque -- a huge upgrade over the 285 hp and 260 lb-ft you get with the Jeep's standard 3.6-liter V6. Jeep says the 392 Concept can do the 0-to-60-mph dash in under 5 seconds, which is downright insane in something so aerodynamically defiant.

Yep, it fits. That's FCA's 392-cubic-inch Hemi V8.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Hot diggity damn can this thing scoot. Open up the two-mode performance exhaust and the V8 belts out the jams while the Wrangler picks up speed. The nose raises precipitously, the rear tires skip a beat and your best bet is to just hold on and enjoy the ride. A 5-second 0-to-60 time is nothing in a low-slung stiffly sprung sports car, but in a big Jeep with huge tires and absolutely nothing in the way of steering feel, the experience is hilarious. And sort of scary. But mostly hilarious. You'll definitely want to launch it over and over again.

I only drove it briefly, but it doesn't take long to get a clear picture of how this Jeep drives. It rolls. It dives. The steering is vague. The brakes... work. It drives like a Wrangler. Which is to say, better than older Wranglers, but still not exactly refined (not that it needs to be, considering its target buyer). Plus, the 392 is a concept vehicle, so it hasn't been finessed and fine-tuned to a level of production road-worthiness. It's also done up with a bunch of off-road mods, they type of stuff that tends to inherently screw with an SUV's on-road manners.

Which brings me to another sad trombone: I didn't get to take the 392 off-roading, so I can't speak to its abilities as a rock-crawler or dune-blaster. It certainly has all the right stuff, though, with Dana 44 axles, a two-speed transfer case, front and rear locking differentials, 37-inch mud-terrain tires and a 2-inch lift. Combine all of that with the Wrangler Rubicon's already phenomenal off-road capabilities and you've got what I can only imagine will be a seriously good time when the going gets filthy. Jeep says the 392 can ford 34 inches of water and has dynamite approach, breakover and departure angles of 51.6, 29.5 and 40.1 degrees, respectively. There's even a steel bumper with an integrated Warn winch just in case things get too hairy.

Half-doors, no windows and 37-inch mud tires. Yes, please.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The 392 Concept looks different than other Wranglers thanks to custom half-doors and removable rear-quarter windows -- two things Jeep is thinking about bringing to production through its accessories catalog. The 17-inch bronze wheels look rad and I kind of dig the dark red leather seats set against this SUV's Granite Crystal exterior color. Front to back, it's a good-looking rig.

So, will this always be a one-off concept, or will Jeep actually build and sell a V8-powered Wrangler? It's hard to say, but I'm willing to bet it'll happen. Jeep loves it. Wrangler owners love it. And honestly, Jeep has to do something to give the Wrangler an edge in the face of the 2021 Ford Bronco.

For now, Jeep says this concept is an indication that enthusiasts "may soon get their wish" for a production V8 Wrangler. It sure seems simple enough to execute, and I genuinely hope it happens. I wouldn't say no to a Hellcat version, either. 

Either way, Jeep, let's get this done.

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